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O'Toole takes aim at Trudeau, Singh as inflation numbers shift focus of campaign

Last Updated Aug 18, 2021 at 3:02 pm EDT

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s political opponents took aim at him on the campaign trail Wednesday over the cost of living, with the Conservatives blaming him for the decade-high pace of price growth and the NDP criticizing the government for high housing prices.

The country’s headline inflation barometer clocked in at 3.7 per cent in July, which Statistics Canada said was the highest year-over-year increase since May 2011 as price growth accelerated from June.

Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, O’Toole said the Liberal government’s approach to the economy is fuelling the increase, but also pinned blame on Singh as well, saying the Liberals and New Democrats “are the reason why there’s inflation.”

He said the inflation numbers should worry Canadians who have come to him complaining about the price of groceries and homes, adding that families on the margins are being priced out of their way of life.

Pressed for details on how a Conservative government would respond, O’Toole spoke about his party’s promise to waive the GST on purchases made this December.

“It’s not restructuring our entire financial system. It’s recognizing we need to let families get ahead and at the same time support brick-and-mortar retail stores that are falling behind,” O’Toole said.

“We are thinking outside the box to give people a little bit more of their own money. That’s never going to happen with Justin Trudeau or Mr. Singh. They want to increase taxes. They are the reason why there is inflation.”

The Conservatives have spent months blaming the Trudeau government’s economic actions for the elevated reading on Statistics Canada’s consumer price index, which tracks year-over-year changes in the prices of goods and services.

The statistics agency says part of the reading for July is because prices are being compared to the lows seen one year ago during the early months of the pandemic, particularly gasoline and food.

BMO Economics noted Wednesday that prices increased by 1.9 per cent in July compared with the same month in 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Another factor is current conditions: More parts of the economy opened in July as public health restrictions eased, and businesses have increased prices in the face of increased demand and to manage higher costs.

There is also higher demand for houses as people spend more time at home and eye rock-bottom interest rates. The price for homes rose nearly 14 per cent year-over-year in July, the largest increase since October 1987.

In a statement, Singh blamed Trudeau for not acting strongly enough to keep housing prices from skyrocketing over the Liberal leader’s time as prime minister.

Singh is scheduled to campaign in Burnaby, B.C., and discuss his party’s plans for making housing more affordable.

“For six years, Justin Trudeau has protected wealthy real estate speculators while housing costs skyrocketed out of reach for millions of people,” the NDP leader said in a statement. “Canadians simply can’t afford Justin Trudeau’s fake promises anymore.”

Trudeau is also campaigning in British Columbia today.